[blogs] The Sri Chinmoy Project — Mo Morgan discovers a sinister cult abusing‘Odd, I thought. But it was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.’ [Related: Metafilter Thread]

Mo Morgan PI

This entry was posted on Friday, August 30th, 2002 at 4:53 pm and is filed under Blogs, Religion, Weird.

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1 Comment

To: Mo Morgan
CC: Dave Winer
(also posted on some weblogs)
Subject: Sri Chinmoy Project, Sri Chinmoy Centre

Dear Mo Morgan:

I would like to compliment you for your work on the “Sri Chinmoy Project,” although I do have some reservations. First of all, let me say that I think your work was motivated by loyalty to the weblog community, and a concern that the data in (and other sites which use that data) be kept pure. You and others did a great job of documenting that there were a number of different domains running scripts designed to publish short poems by Sri Chinmoy and to ping after updates. Although this is something like a haiku blog, on balance I would agree that these pages were not true weblogs as the term is commonly used by the weblog community.

Shortly after Labor Day, when this issue broke, I got in touch with people at the Sri Chinmoy organization, to find out what was going on. Although I had not been in touch with them for many years, these people were not strangers to me. I had studied Yoga and meditation with Sri Chinmoy in the past, which was a very positive and rewarding experience for me — one which has helped me in many areas of my life. During the past year, I have also been involved in Usenet discussions about Sri Chinmoy Centre, and it would be entirely fair to call me a supporter.

What I learned from my own investigations and from dialoguing with members of Sri Chinmoy Centre is that these people felt they had been unfairly attacked, and they were trying to get out the positive message about the actual teachings and lifestyle of their group as best they could. To their credit, although they put out a lot of material, none of it was negative. It was all about the ideals of inner peace and world peace, which are the hallmarks of their philosophy.

However, what I put across to them was that in responding to unfair attacks, they may have become too aggressively positive. I encouraged them to adopt a more moderate approach in getting out their message, and they were very receptive to this idea. In short, I believe that they have already begun to change their approach, and that the weblog community has no reason to be concerned about them. Here’s an excerpt from our dialogue:

Me: For the greatest success on the web, you should treat the web community the way you would treat the running community: as people with whom you wish to partner long term. This is the opposite of a strategy which says that the web is like a big vacant lot whose walls need to be plastered with posters advertising Sri Chinmoy. Since you’ve done such a fantastic job of winning over the running community, I know that you’re bound to succeed with the web community as well; it’s just a matter of fine tuning your strategy. One of my favorite Sri Chinmoy links is this article by Kevin Tiller. It’s valuable because it’s written by someone who is obviously not a member of your organization, but who knows you well and writes with insight and empathy:

Them: You are absolutely right in pointing out the mistakes we have made in our over-eagerness! We shall rectify those immediately. We love your suggestions on making our sites really excellent, and aspiring to have them serve the on-line community, just as we try to serve our brothers and sisters through our races! You have given us a vision which is extremely fulfilling to work on and totally one with Sri Chinmoy’s vision for our manifestation in all fields! For this, we are extremely grateful. We will begin immediately working to make our sites better.

Me: Happy to hear it. You know Dave Winer of Userland put a block on the string “chinmoy” for

Them: We’re sorry that such a misunderstanding has come between us and Dave Winer. We really like what he is doing. Can you please pass along our apologies to Dave?

Me: Will do. Is there an e-mail addy that people can use if they have any outstanding technical issues or other questions about your web sites?

Them: Sure!

[end dialogue]

Since then, I’ve been volunteering to help them with some things, and I must say they are as I remembered them — really good people who simply march to the beat of a different drummer.

One of the interesting phenomena that those of us who hang out on the web have often observed is that there is no such thing as an immaculate perception. Information comes in various flavours, and depending on our world view, we tend to choose a flavour that appeals to us. We hook into a certain source of information which may not necessarily be “true” in any deep sense of the word, but which resonates with our personal lifestyle. Within the hacker and weblog community, there is an emphasis on individual style and rebel culture. Since by nature I’m an outcast and a rebel, this often resonates well with me. Though I’m not a hacker, I’ve been a regular listener to Emmanuel Goldstein’s Off The Hook show on WBAI radio for many years. I know that the hacker community is often misunderstood and even demonized, and I believe the same is also true of people who choose to join minority spiritual groups. Sociologists of religion correctly perceive that such groups are in fact *nonconformists* in relation to the rest of society. But in pop culture, such minority spiritual groups are often stereotyped as “sinister cults.” For me, this portrayal of Sri Chinmoy Centre does not ring true.

When I look at this curious confrontation between weblog culture and yoga culture in cyberspace, in reminds me of a Star Trek episode. Aliens from planet Chinmoy are flooding the ship’s computers with poetry for some unknown purpose. At first this is seen as a potential threat (such as a DoS attack); but by the end of the episode we discover that the “aliens” are humanoid, and that they are in fact a peace-loving race who simply choose a different way of life. They are sending out vast quantities of poetry because this is their instinctive way of defending themselves against attacks by Vogon-like anticultists.

For what it’s worth, that’s my take on this affair!


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